Southaven County Park, Yaphank NY
May 11th 2019
by Brian Berson
Musicians have always used songs to capture the voice of the working class and the Suffolk county Mayday Music Festival showcased those voices. The festival was organized to raise awareness of issues facing working people today and to promote solidarity across labor unions and all people who work to provide for their families. The festival was a nonprofit event donating all net proceeds to fund charities such as scholarships for union members and their families, promoting union organizing and activism and supporting the Harry Chapin Food Bank which puts food on the tables of those in need.
With local food trucks a plenty, there was no shortage of great food from Empanadas to BBQ to wood fire pizza and everything in between. Local brewery Blue Point Brewery provided beer wine courtesy of Long Island wineries Castello Di Borghese and Pindar.
There was music all day from when the festival started at noon and around 4pm on the main stage the headliners started with Queen’s native and punk rocker turned singer/songwriter Jesse Malin. Jesses hour long set spanned his 18-year solo career playing songs that kept the crowd rocking in the beautiful spring weather. Songs such as Wendy, Turn Up the Mains, Riding on the Subway.
Joined by his horn section on She Don’t Love Me Now, You Know It’s Dark When Atheists Start to Prey. They also played covers of If I Should Fall from Grace with God by The Pogues and Rock and Roll Radio by The Ramones. Jesse cracked jokes throughout his set telling the audience if they just arrived they are Jethro Tull. Jesse Malin is gearing up to release his new album in the fall.
Brian Fallon was up next, and he’s most well known as the singer of the NJ band Gaslight Anthem but he has released two solo albums with a full band but at this festival he appeared with just his acoustic guitar and his sense of humor. Treating fans to a set packed with mostly songs by Gaslight Anthem he took time as he always does to improv and tell anecdotes and jokes. He commented on the amount of traffic from his home in NJ all the way to Suffolk county and how he drastically underestimated Long Island traffic. He made his set time with only minutes to spare. Opening with his solo song A Wonderful Life followed by American Slang by Gaslight Anthem. Everyone in attendance knew they were in for something special. His rough and soulful voice really pushed these songs to a new level by not having a band behind him and being stripped down to an acoustic guitar and a great voice. He joked that he left his sunglasses home so a fan from the crowd threw him a pair of white sunglasses that were being handed out at the festival by Blue Point Brewery (which Brian was drinking during his set) He played The Navesink Banks, a Gaslight Anthem song he wrote about his hometown in Nj just so it would have a song. He brought out his close friend Jesse Malin to do an incredible duet of Miles Davis and The Cool by Gaslight Anthem and finally closed his set with another Gaslight Anthem song called National Anthem which he said was the fastest song he ever wrote. He saw an old tattered flag while on tour and took out a pad and quickly wrote the song.
Next up was songwriting legend Steve Earle and his band The Dukes. Steve sporting his long grey beard has been writing and performing since 1974 and he has an amazing band of musicians with him as you’d expect a veteran musician to have. Playing a sort of outlaw country/Americana music and has always been outspoken about antiwar and anti-death penalty and wrote songs for the working man which ties in perfectly with the spirit of this music festival. He told stories about his legendary friends Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark and played songs of his own and covers of Dublin Blues by Guy Clark and a snippet of Racing in The Streets into his song Sweet Little 66’ and keeping with the car theme he then covered Pink Cadillac by Bruce Springsteen. Steve Earle brought a special dose of country and rock n roll to this Long Island music festival.
To close the show was The Gin Blossoms who packed the lawn with fans. The sun had gone down which gave the Gin Blossoms full use of the stage lights giving it a full rock show feel. Singer Robin Wilson joked that even though the band started in Arizona where most of the band members still live he had moved to Valley Stream, Long Island and was happy to be able to drive himself to and from the show in his own car. The weather slightly turned and started raining but that didn’t slow the band or fans down from enjoying the show. The Gin Blossoms played Allison Road, Until I Hear It From You and of course Hey Jealousy. Luckily the show was in a field mile from a residential neighborhood because the fans loudly sang every word.
This was the first year of the Mayday Music Festival and it was a well-run and organized event that hopefully will be an annual event to help a great cause.